Thursday, December 13

The Seven Deadly Sins of a Synopsis {Tessa @ Crazy for YA}

This post is part of A Winter's Tale, an event running through December for which we invited eight of our favorite bloggers to talk about their favorite books, authors etc. or share an interesting discussion. They have gone all out and gave us even better, more professional content than we expected, which is to say something. If you're here, don't forget to enter our month-long international giveaway here.

Today, we are happy to welcome:

Tessa from Crazy for YA!

I honestly can't recall when I discovered Tessa, but what I do know is that her blog is a treasure. She shares both hyped and underhyped titles, and her posts are always so articulate and well-phrased. No matter if I agree or disagree with her on a book, I always close her blog feeling like, yeah, that was time well spent. So I'm extremely pleased & hyped & othergoodfeelings to welcome her at The Regal Critique as a guest-poster. - Vera 💙


Picking a book to read is difficult. There are just too many books and so little time, especially if you are a chronic Twitter procrastinator and Netflix binger like me.

I barely have the to do my own laundry, let alone spend time on books that aren't my taste. Thankfully, the publishing industry has evolved to provide summaries aka a synopsis, with books these days to help readers decide if a book is right for them or not. This is an amazing idea in theory, but sometimes it falls short in practice.

Here are the seven deadly sins of a bad synopsis:

1. The synopsis is longer than the book itself 

As a reader, I like to think that I have a pretty solid attention span. I can follow stories through hundreds of pages, but a synopsis longer than one side of a book jacket cannot hold my attention. I am a busy blogger, constantly sifting through new releases, ARCs, and backlist books to see which book gets the honor of being read by me next. So, I read a lot of book summaries and I don't have time for a dissertation written on the back of a book. Plus, if a book cannot explain itself succinctly in the synopsis, then I don't have much hope for clear, concise world-building or characterization in the actual novel.

2. The synopsis is shorter than a Tweet 

I know this point seems contradictory, but there is a tricky balance for the length of a synopsis. I want to be an informed reader without slogging through a synopsis longer than my attention span.

That being said, I want a synopsis to explain key details about the book, like the genre, main characters, and some hint of the plot to get me excited to read it. However, if a synopsis is only a few sentences, then I won't feel informed enough to pick it up.

3. The synopsis has a lot of words but says nothing 

Similar to #1, but a bigger problem. There are a lot of summaries that have the right length, but then end up being so vague that I didn't get anything out of it. It is one thing to use this tactic with a mystery novel, but I don't want my fantasy, science fiction, or contemporary books to skimp out on the details in a synopsis. A wishy-washy synopsis can be a precursor to a weak plot or unclear characterization.

4. The synopsis is really just a bunch of vague praise and promises

One of my largest book pet peeves is when the back of a book is advanced praise and quotes from other authors instead of a summary. I like to think of myself as an independent reader who can decide my own opinions on a book without James Patterson, John Green, or (insert other popular author here) telling me how to feel about it.

That being said, I do love it when fellow book bloggers are featured in advanced praise sections. I don't think this is hypocrisy if I am supporting my fellow book lovers and bloggers. 

5. The synopsis brags about the author too much 

Yes, I do have auto-buy authors that I will read pretty much anything from, but I would rather hear about the actual book in a synopsis than the author. Lately, I have been noticing a trend where a synopsis will start with something like "Another great story from world-renowned, New York Times Bestselling Author". That's great and all, but I am a believer that past success doesn't guarantee future success. I want to judge a mainly based on the content, not just the author. Plus, this opening is very arrogant to me, making assumptions about readers who like a certain author.

6. The synopsis reveals all of the book's secrets 

I hardly watch movie trailers anymore because they always seem to give away the entire movie. Unfortunately, I have seen some novels that do the same thing in the synopsis, hinting to a "plot twist" or "unexpected turns" in the story that you should watch out for. However, even telling us about these "surprises" makes them less surprising in the first place. I want a book, especially a mystery or a thriller, to punch me in the gut with its plot twist, which is not exactly possible if the synopsis already put me on guard.

7. The synopsis lies to you 

There is an unspoken pact between reader and synopsis--thou shall not lie to each other. I don't pick up a book and tell it that I like the synopsis, even when I really hate it. I never lie to a synopsis, so they don't have the right to lie to me.

Unfortunately, this pact is not always upheld on the book's side of the deal. Sometimes, this sin is the accumulation of the other sins, using vague descriptions and seemingly glowing praise to lure readers into a story that they didn't even sign up for.

Finally, I want to give a huge thank-you to Veronika, Ruzaika, and Clare at The Regal Critiques for letting me write a guest post! I love writing discussion lists and I am glad that they let me be a little sassy. I have been a fan of their work for AGES and it was really an honor to contribute something to their amazing blog.

-Tessa @ Crazy for YA

Let chat!
Do you agree/disagree with Tessa's points? 
What are your synopsis pet peeves?


  1. I definitely agree with your points, Tessa! I particularly hate it when a synopsis spends a lot of time comparing itself to other famous books. Stuff like “a cross between the hunger games and Harry Potter” annoys me so much. I know your book doesn’t take place in Panem or Hogwarts, so stop saying that!

  2. Too long or too short is always bad. I also don't like the ones where they are posing as a character and telling us nothing of any use.

  3. Hi Tessa! First off, I absolutely endorse EVERYTHING Vera said about your blog. Secondly, I love the double pun in the title (which even evolved from its original, simpler form "The sins of a synopsis"! Well done!).

    OK, back to the actual post - I agree with all of these points (though I can't remember any really short blurb right now? but I've seen all the other types multiple times - we ALL have). No.4 and 5 cracked me up. They're up there with one that doesn't feature on your list, but might be the love child of those two: the synopsis where you're told that the book is like "X meets Y", or "perfect for fans of this and that". You're also right about long blurbs not boding well for the content (apart from being time-consuming to read), even if the author is not at fault because they didn't write them...such blurbs give the impression that the book can't be summarised properly because it's too confusing, or too generic, or too dispersive. I do believe that there's an art to synopsis...only, too little people seem to have mastered it.

  4. Interesting insights--I hope I would never make these mistakes!


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